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Retain the first past the post system of voting

Last updated: 11:10am 14 December 2019

We will retain the first past the post system of voting for parliamentary elections…

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.43

Our verdict

The FPTP (First Past the Post) voting system has been used in all constituencies in UK general elections since 1950. FPTP is a very simple voting system. In each constituency, parties put forward one candidate. Each voter receives a ballot paper with a list of candidates standing in their constituency, and votes are cast by putting a cross next to the chosen candidate. To win a seat in the House of Commons, a candidate simply needs to receive the largest number of votes in the constituency in which they are standing, even if the difference is only a tiny number of votes.

However, FPTP is often criticised. One of the main criticisms is the argument that the system does a bad job of representing public opinion, because of discrepancies it frequently produces between the share of the vote parties receive and the share of seats they obtain in Parliament.

The most recent opportunity to change the voting system was the 2011 referendum on whether to adopt the Alternative Vote. This is a system in which voters rank their favoured candidates in order of preference, and is intended to avoid tactical voting, which sometimes occurs under FPTP. However, the Alternative Vote was not adopted, as the No campaign, which argued for the retention of FPTP, won the referendum with 67.9% of the vote.

Therefore, FPTP is still the voting system in parliamentary elections.  There has been no attempt under this government to replace FPTP with a different voting system, so this policy is ‘done’.

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